NEWS | IPCC: world will miss 1.5°C without transforming food system

(4 April 2022) Reacting to the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the mitigation of climate change today, experts from IPES-Food called for fundamental reform of food systems to avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

The IPCC report, agreed by governments and scientists, finds that:

  • We are nowhere near on track to achieve the Paris Agreement targets of keeping global warming below 2°C, and ideally 1.5°C. 
  • Investment levels are insufficient to stay Paris aligned and investment gaps are widest for the agriculture, forest and land sector and for developing countries. Investment levels must increase by 3 to 6 times current levels to limit warming to below 2°C. 
  • Agriculture and land use account for nearly a quarter of GHG emissions and keep rising. Transforming farming and livestock can reduce emissions and draw down carbon.
  • Demand-side mitigation efforts across all sectors - including lifestyle changes, reduction of food waste, and shift to sustainable diets - can result in a 40-70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; and can improve health and wellbeing. 
  • For emissions that are extremely hard or impossible to reduce, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it is required. But there are limits to how possible this is and entails risks for ecosystems, livelihoods and health.

Hans Herren, member of IPES-Food, President of the Millennium Institute, and Right Livelihood Award (2013) Laureate, reacted: 

“Scientists and governments agree, we are barrelling towards catastrophic levels of global heating - and our industrial food system is a major culprit. Without a rapid transformation toward sustainable and resilient food systems, it will be impossible to limit temperature rises to 1.5°C and prevent mass crop failures - entailing horrific consequences for marginalized people who did not cause this crisis.

“Yet right now, almost no government has plans in their national climate strategies to transform food systems - giving one of the world’s destructive industries a free pass.” 

Emile Frison, member of IPES-Food and former Director General of Bioversity International, reacted: 

“Unlike for other polluting industries, sustainable solutions are readily available for food systems - such as reducing food waste, promoting agroforestry, and introducing sustainable diets - all while mitigating emissions, and delivering multiple benefits for food security, livelihoods and biodiversity. 

“Upcoming international biodiversity and climate negotiations are key opportunities to tackle the greenhouse gases and pollution coming from industrial farming and the globalized food system. 

“Governments must massively get behind and multiply the efforts of farmers and regional governments who are adopting agroecological practices - shifting towards diversified farms which work with nature. 

“But using land only to sequester carbon could risk displacing people and undermining food security, with dubious benefits.”